Opera was initially released in April 1995, making it one of the oldest desktop web browsers still actively developed today. It was a commercial software for the first ten years and had its own proprietary Presto layout engine. In 2013, Opera switched from the Presto engine to Chromium.
The web browser can be used on Microsoft Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, and Linux operating systems. There are also mobile versions called Opera Mobile and Opera Mini. Additionally, Opera users have access to a news app based on an AI-platform, Opera News.
After being acquired by a Chinese consortium led by Golden Brick Capital Private Equity in year 2016, the company released a gaming browser called Opera GX in 2019.
Main article: History of the Opera web browser
In 1994, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivarsoy started developing the Opera web browser while working at Telenor, a Norwegian telecommunications company.
In 1995, they founded Opera Software AS. Opera was initially released in April 1995 and was first publicly released in 1996 with version 2.10, which ran on Microsoft Windows 95. Opera began development of its first browser for mobile device platforms in 1998.
Opera 4.0, released in 2000, included a new cross-platform core that facilitated the creation of editions of Opera for multiple operating systems and platforms.
Up to this point, Opera was trialware and had to be purchased after the trial period ended. Version 5.0 (released in 2000) saw the end of this requirement. Instead, Opera became ad-sponsored, displaying advertisements to users who had not paid for it. Later versions of Opera gave the user the choice of seeing banner ads or targeted text advertisements from Google.
With version 8.5 (released in 2005) the advertisements were completely removed and the primary financial support for the browser came through revenue from Google (which is by contract Opera's default search engine).
Among the new features introduced in version 9.1 (released in 2006) was fraud protection using technology from GeoTrust, a digital certificate provider, and PhishTank, an organization that tracks known phishing web sites. This feature was further expanded in version 9.5, when GeoTrust was replaced with Netcraft, and malware protection from Haute Secure was added.
In 2006, Opera Software ASA was released as well as Internet Channel and Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's DS and Wii gaming systems.
On 16 December 2010, Opera 11 was released, featuring extensions, tab stacking (where dragging one tab over another allows creating a group of tabs), visual mouse gestures and changes to the address bar. Opera 12 was released on 14 June 2012.
On 12 February 2013, Opera Software announced that it would drop its own Presto layout engine in favour of WebKit as implemented by Google's Chrome browser, using code from the Chromium project. Opera Software planned as well to contribute code to WebKit. On 3 April 2013, Google announced that it would fork components from WebKit to form a new layout engine known as Blink. The same day, Opera Software confirmed that it would follow Google in implementing the Blink layout engine.
On 28 May 2013, a beta release of Opera 15 was made available, the first version of which was based on the Chromium project. Many distinctive Opera features of the previous versions were dropped, and Opera Mail was separated into a standalone application derived from Opera 12.
In November 2016, the original Norwegian owner sold his stake in Opera Software company to a Chinese consortium named Golden Brick Capital Private Equity Fund I Limited Partnership for $600 million. An earlier deal was not approved by Norwegian regulators.
In January 2017, the source code of Opera 12.15, one of the last few versions that was still based on the Presto layout engine, was leaked.
To demonstrate how radically different a browser could look, Opera Neon, dubbed a "concept browser", was released in January 2017. PC World compared it to demo models that automakers and hardware vendors release to show their visions of the future. Instead of a Speed Dial (also explained in the following chapter "Features"), it displays the frequently accessed websites in resemblance to a desktop with computer icons scattered all over it in an artistic formation.
In January 2020, several news sites reported the company behind Opera had published predatory loan apps. Opera's response was:
The Company is aware of and has carefully reviewed the report published by the short seller on January 16, 2020. The Company believes that the report contains numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions and interpretations regarding the business of and events relating to the Company.
Opera's loan app OKash, OPesa and CashBean subsequently increased its repayment period from 15-61 days to 60-365 days.
Main article: Features of the Opera web browser
Opera has originated features later adopted by other web browsers, including: Speed Dial, pop-up blocking, re-opening recently closed pages, private browsing, and tabbed browsing. Additional features include a built-in screenshot tool called Snapshot which also includes an image-markup tool, built-in ad blockers and tracking blockers, and Web 3 support.
Opera’s desktop browser includes access to social media messaging apps WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, and VKontakte.
Usability and accessibility
Opera includes a bookmarks bar and a download manager. It also has "Speed Dial", which allows the user to add an unlimited number of pages shown in thumbnail form in a page displayed when a new tab is opened.
Opera Turbo, a feature that compresses requested web pages (except HTTPS pages) before sending them to the users, is no longer available on the desktop browser. Opera Turbo is available in Opera Mini, the mobile browser.
One security feature is the option to delete private data, such as HTTP cookies, browsing history, items in cache and passwords with the click of a button.
When visiting a site, Opera displays a security badge in the address bar which shows details about the website, including security certificates. Opera's fraud and malware protection warns the user about suspicious web pages and is enabled by default. It checks the requested page against several databases of known phishing and malware websites, called blacklists.
In 2016, a free virtual private network (VPN) service was implemented in the browser. Opera said that this would allow encrypted access to websites otherwise blocked, and provide security on public WiFi networks. It was later determined that the browser VPN operated the same as a proxy rather than other VPN services.
Crypto wallet support
In 2018, a built-in cryptocurrency wallet to the Opera Web Browser was released, announcing that they would be the first browser with a built-in Crypto Wallet. On 13 December 2018, Opera released a video showing many decentralized applications like Cryptokitties running on the Android version of the Opera Web Browser.
In March 2020, Opera updated its Android browser to access crypto domains, making it the first browser to be able to support a domain name system (DNS) which is not part of the traditional DNS directly without the need of a plugin or add-on. This was through a collaboration with a San Francisco based startup, Unstoppable Domains.
Opera GX is a gaming-oriented counterpart of Opera. The browser was announced and released in early access for Windows on June 11, 2019, during E3 2019. The macOS version was released in December of that year.
Opera GX adds features geared towards gamers on top of the regular Opera browser. The browser allows users to limit network, CPU, and memory usage to preserve system resources. It also adds integrations with other apps such as Twitch, Discord, and Instagram. The browser also has a built-in page called the "GX corner", which collates gaming-related news stories, releases, and deals.
Opera Software uses a release cycle consisting of three "streams", corresponding to phases of development, that can be downloaded and installed independently of each other: "developer", "beta" and "stable". New features are first introduced in the developer build, then, depending on user feedback, may progress to the beta version and eventually be released.
The developer stream allows early testing of new features, mainly targeting developers, extension creators, and early adopters. Opera developer is not intended for everyday browsing as it is unstable and is prone to failure or crashing, but it enables advanced users to try out new features that are still under development, without affecting their normal installation of the browser. New versions of the browser are released frequently, generally a few times a week.
The beta stream, formerly known as "Opera Next", is a feature complete package, allowing stability and quality to mature before the final release. A new version is released every couple of weeks.
Both streams can be installed alongside the official release without interference. Each has a different icon to help the user distinguish between the variants.
Desktop and tablet web browser market share according to StatCounter for December 2020.
In 2005, Adobe Systems integrated Opera's rendering engine, Presto, into its Adobe Creative Suite applications. Opera technology was employed in Adobe GoLive, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and other components of the Adobe Creative Suite. Opera's layout engine is also found in Virtual Mechanics SiteSpinner Pro. The Internet Channel is a version of the Opera 9 web browser for use on the Nintendo Wii created by Opera Software and Nintendo. Opera Software is also implemented in the Nintendo DS Browser for Nintendo's handheld systems.
Opera is one of the top 5 browsers used around the world. As of April 2021, Opera's offerings had over 320 million active users.
The Opera browser has been listed as a “tried and tested direct alternative to Chrome”. It scores close to Chrome on the HTML5test, which scores browsers’ compatibility with different web standards.
Versions with the Presto layout engine have been positively reviewed, although they have been criticized for website compatibility issues. Because of this issue, Opera 8.01 and higher had included workarounds to help certain popular but problematic web sites display properly.
Versions with the Blink layout engine have been criticized by some users for missing features such as UI customization, and for abandoning Opera Software's own Presto layout engine. Despite that, versions with the Blink layout engine have been noted for being fast and stable, for handling the latest web standards and for having a better website compatibility and a modern-style user interface.
Opera browser platform variants:
Opera Mini: a browser for tablets and telephones
Opera Mobile: a browser for tablets and telephones
Related other browsers:
Otter Browser: an open-source browser that recreates some aspects of the classic Opera
Vivaldi: a freeware browser created by former Opera Software employees
^"Opera version history". Opera. Archived from the original on 23 October 2014. Retrieved 29 February 2016. Opera has a history of introducing new features long before they become mainstream, and often failing to receive credit for doing so. Opera was the first browser to [...]